Social Inequality

  • Created by: krishmaq
  • Created on: 09-04-14 15:29

Social Inequality 1

Social inequality refers to the unequal distribution of:

  • Resources such as power, wealth and income
  • Opportunities (related, for example, to health, education and employment)

Social class, gender, ethnicity and age are all sources of inequality in modern British society.

  • Life chances: an individual’s chances of achieving positive or negative outcomes (relating, for example, to health, education, housing) as they progress through life

Stratification: In an open system of stratification, status is achieved and social mobility is possible (meritocratic). In a closed system, status is ascribed so social mobility is highly unlikely.

  • Ascribed status: Social positions that are fixed at birth and unchanging over time e.g. hereditary titles
  • Achieved status: social positions that are earned on the basis of individuals’ talents or abilities
  • Social mobility: movement up or down between a society’s strata
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Social Inequality 2

     Caste system: based on Hinduism [Ascribed status]

  • Karma & Dharma = re-incarnation
  • Good life = high on scale
  • Bad life= removed/outcast/demoted - outcasts/untouchables

     Social Class: [Achieved status]

  • Previously w/c stay w/c, m/c stay m/c 
  • Now social class is more blurred,meritocracy= social mobility

Social mobility types [marxists say it social class system is closed]:

  • Inter-generational social mobility: movement up or down between the strata of a stratification system as measured between the generations of a family
  • Intra-generational social mobility: movement of an individual over the course of their life up or down between the strata of a stratification system
  • Long-range mobility: social mobility that involves significant movement
  • Short-range mobility: social mobility that involves limited movement
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Social Inequality 3

Wealth distribution

  • Wealth: money held in savings accounts and shares or ownership of assets such as land,refers to the ownership of assets that are valued at a particular point in time. Marketable assets include houses and land that can be sold in order to make money. 
  • Income: the resources that individuals and households receive over a specific time period. Can be received in cash or in kind. Refers to the flow of resources which individuals households receive over a specific period of time.
  • Wealth without income: If a person inherits property therefore doesn't need to work, however they may not be able to pay the bills.
  • Income without wealth: A person who earns a lot but spends it feely (no savings)
  • Wealth Gap: the gap between rich and poor which is widening.
  • Trickle down effect: E.g big business men pay empolyees and money is distributed from one to another.

Income and wealth are unequally distributed in the UK due to tax therefore m/c people earn more and inherit more from families.

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Social Inequality 4

Marxist theory: that class membership is determined by economic factors (ownership & non-ownership [ conflict theory]

  • Bourgeoisie (capitalist/ruling class)

Wealthy and own property, big businesses, land and factories. Their main interests are higher profits

  • Proletariat (working classes)

Own no property and are forced to sell their labour to the bourgeoisie in order to survive. Main interest is higher wages

This will lead to poliarisation: m/c get richer and smaller, w/c become poorer and bigger. W/C will realise they're being expolited and rebel= class system will dissappear, equal society.

Embourgeoisement: w/c adopt a m/c lifestyle e.g essex man 1990s/ builders can afford lifestyle. 1980s council houses sold to people living in them.

Proletarianism: m/c jobs, little pay so they're known as w/c e.g call centre, limited qualifications

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Social Inequality 5

Max Weber identified four main classes with different life chances in the labour market. Those in the same class have similar access to chances.

  • Property owners
  • Professionals
  • Petty bourgeoisie
  • Working class

Like a market-place: once class hires labour, the other sells ect.

Marx believes in ECONOMIC factors, Weber believes in ECONOMIC and/or power/status [non].

Functionalist Theory: modern society requires a system of unequal rewards

Certain jobs are more important, best people (higher education/training/talen) get best jobs with the best wages. E.g after long training, most able people,highly qualified and essential for society.It ensures that the most important jobs are filled by the most talented and highly qualified people.

They see modern societies such as Britain as meritocratic, to a large extent.

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Social Inequality 6

Explanations to poverty

Structural: focus on people are poor because of the way society is structured

Cultural: focus on the poor themselves - their behaviour leads them into poverty

Culture of poverty

The poorest groups are socialised into the poverty subculture and don't try to escape it

Values & Attitudes:

  • Little difference can be made so there's not point trying to change it = Fatalism
  • Immediate gratificatoin= live for today= no future. Hand to mouth.

Charles Murray's Underclass theory - lowest part of society, exluded from society, adopt a different lifestyle because they can't keep up with material expectations

Welfare dependency: [NR classify them as undeserving poor], Murray's symtoms - crime,extramaritial births,inactivity of men in working age, benefits too generous/no incentives = benefit scroungers.

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Social Inequality 7

how far would sociologists agree that cultural factors and values of the poor keep them in poverty?

Agree: cultural factors, follow own set of norms/vales, murray's underclass, lack of role models in subculture,fatalism, immediate gratification, culture/cycle of deprivation

Disagree: structural factors, marxists, bourgeoiuse hold down proleteriate, no social mobility, not meritocractic, welfare state/dependency, N.R = welfare dependency, however there's means tested, no incentives.

Race Relations Act/Equalities Act: protects people from discrimination, groups together factors easily but is hard to prove

Social Mobility no longer revelant? Are we now a classless society?

  • Classless society: a society that does not have different social classes
  • Goldthorpe’s (1972-1974) mobility study suggested that some long-rang mobility had occurred. Working class children did, in fact, end up in middle-class occupations


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Social Inequality 8

Age: socially constructed, have different expectations for different age groups, also depending on society.

Chronological- no of years you've lived     OR    Biological - physical changes to body

E.g British society [elders] seen as unable to participate/unfit

E.g Tribes [elders] seen as mature,experienced,respected,wisdom,knowledgable members

Ethnicity: A group of people who share an identity based on cultural traditions,language,region ect

Ethnic minority: a group of people who are from a different ethnic group from the majority of the population.

Sociologists reject idea of race, socially constructed, race- negative connotations

Equalities Act/ Race Relations Act = outlaw discrimination and provide equal oppurtunities

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Social Inequality 9

Measuring Social Class

Registrar general scale: based on occupation, manual e.g requires physical strength seen as w/c /non-manual e.g technical/proffesional seen as m/c but there are problems-

  • Hard to place people without jobs on scale e.g students,retired,unemployed. 
  • Jobless woman classified based on husband's occupation= misleading.
  • Two people may have the same occupation or job title yet there may be huge differences in their wealth, income, status and qualifications
  • Wealthy upper-class people and property owners were difficult to place on a scale based on occupation

The National Statistics Socio-economic Classification (NS-SEC) covers the whole population including students and long term unemployed people. Groups together similar people e.g

  • The rewards they provide – such as pay, career prospects and job security
  • Employment status – takes into account whether someone is employer/employee
  • Levels of authority and control – takes into account whether someone is responsible for other workers/are supervised by others
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